Professor Tempestt receives an NSF CAREER Award

Tempestt Neal

Tempestt Neal, Assistant Professor in USF CSE, received a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation for her project, “Inclusive Cybersecurity Through the Lens of Accessible Identity and Access Management (I-CLAIM).” The NSF’s CAREER award is one of the most prestigious and competitive awards for early-career researchers with exceptional potential in research and teaching. 

“I’m fortunate to have great mentors like Dr. Damon Woodard, my Ph.D. advisor, and Dr. Sylvia Thomas, along with my colleagues in the CSE department,” said Professor Neal. “Being surrounded by such prolific researchers has certainly had a positive influence on my career – I pay attention to how they approach science, interact with their students, and intentionally seek out meaningful activities as educators."

The award includes a five-year grant of $607,272 to increase the cybersecurity awareness of individuals identifying as members of racial and ethnic groups historically excluded in Science and Engineering (S&E). Such underrepresentation could lead to reduced opportunities in S&E in which cybersecurity skills are developed. Thus, I-CLAIM focuses on cybersecurity awareness concerning the appropriate use and management of identity credentials for user authentication. “This focus is important as credential-related account compromises are among the most common types of cyberattacks, while members of historically excluded racial and ethnic groups are more frequently targeted by cyberattacks. Further, while research on inclusive authentication is growing, inclusive user authentication schemes, like password-based and biometric systems, are understudied. It’s important to tackle the challenge of inclusive cybersecurity head on to expand the nation’s cybersecurity defense,” said Professor Neal. Through integrated research and education activities, I-CLAIM will develop novel, inclusive user authentication systems to reduce cybersecurity risk, with race and ethnicity central foci. 

“I’m extremely honored and blessed to work with such a great group of students. This certainly would not have been possible without their creative minds, and it most certainly won’t be sustainable without them,” said Professor Neal. “Last, but definitely not least, I have to thank my wife for her endless reading and critiquing of everything I’ve ever written, and my parents for their boundless support.”

The National Science Foundation's award to Professor Neal is an important step toward inclusivity in various cybersecurity initiatives. By focusing on identity and access management, Professor Neal’s work directly contributes to countering cybersecurity vulnerabilities, especially those faced by historically excluded populations.